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No explosion of asylum seekers figures in France, NGO

media Albanian refugees in a camp near Lyon that was ordered to be cleared in October RFI/Matthieu Millecamps

There is no "explosion" of asylum seekers in France, the head of an NGO that works with would-be immigrants has told RFI, and the country has taken in a limited number of refugees from the Syrian conflict, despite its vocal opposition to President Bashar al-Assad.

Rejecting right-wing MP Eric Ciotti's claim that France is set to receive 70,000 asylum seekers in 2013, Pierre Henry of France Terre d'Asile says that 48,000 applications were accepted in the first nine months of the year, meaning that the likely figure for the whole year is around 64,000.

That is a rise on 2012's figure, he says, but the current figure is no higher than the years 2003-2005.

Most asylum seekers this year have come from Syria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Russia, Albania, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Georgia and Kosovo, according to Henry, but he says that the total number of Syrians accepted since the beginning of the crisis there is no more than 1,500, while millions are housed in refugee camps in neighbouring countries, notably Turkey and Jordan.

France recently committed itself to taking in more Syrians, following pressure from the European Union.

France takes the second highest number of asylum seekers in Europe in total, after Germany, but per head of population it comes 10th in the European Union.

It also spends less than most other European countries and a lot less than the UK and The Netherlands, according to Henry, who calls for a "sensible" reform to speed up the treatment of applications that at present often take as long as 18 months.

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